Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Infant Holy Infant Lowly"1 (Lyrics)
Luke 1:76 – And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him. (NIV)
My mother had the gift of telling us about real-life developments as they unfolded. She kept us spellbound with vivid details, even when the story took several years to reach its secretly hoped-for, but still-unexpected climax. One such memorable story was about her unmarried friend, who was old in our eyes even as the story began. One day, my mother mentioned that a well-known, middle-aged gentleman had asked her friend to marry him. The story became a fairy tale, until my mother told us with sadness in her voice that it seemed very unlikely that the friend and her soft-spoken husband would become parents. The tone of her voice conveyed the pain of the childless couple. Our family started praying for them. Probably a year later, when my mother told us that her friend was expecting a child, we were in disbelief. But it was true! In due time, a son was born. We were touched by this miracle, the more so because my mother said with strange tears in her eyes that the boy's name was John.
If the birth of this naturally conceived child already felt like a miracle and a new beginning, how much more miraculous and meaningful was the birth of John the Baptist! For many years, Zachariah and Elizabeth had pleaded with the Lord for a child. But their prayer was not answered until after their ability to conceive had ceased. Then the miracle happened. At the divinely determined time, the Lord blessed Elizabeth, the barren woman, with a child. He had given new hope, not just to Zachariah and Elizabeth, but to the entire spiritual house of Israel.
Truly, John's birth heralded a new beginning. The promises of long ago were about to reach their fulfilment in the arrival of God's own Son. It would be John's task to prepare the way for this promised Saviour. This meant that John, as prophet of the Most High, was to call the people to repentance. Hearts that were hardened in self-righteousness needed to be softened with an awareness of the need for a Saviour. And what a Saviour Jesus is! He re-opened the way to God the Father by taking upon Himself the guilt of His people.
But we cannot be satisfied with stating these wonderful truths. We must apply them to ourselves. At this season of Advent, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus, our Saviour, we need to repent daily from our selfish behaviour and our unholy thoughts. At the prompting of the Holy Spirit we must learn to confess our sins. Then He "will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19b). We will have been prepared to serve our Saviour with a revived heart.
Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, we thank You for softening our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh through the work of Your Spirit. We thank You that You prepare us for receiving our Saviour Jesus by teaching us to recognize and confess our sins. We thank You also for teaching us to pray incessantly. We pray for Your help when we encourage people who do not know You to examine their hearts. We thank You for Your miraculous grace. In the name of our Saviour, we pray. Amen.